The pain of the theological division over GLTB ordination and marriage hit home to me these last few weeks when I Iearned that the first Presbyterian church I joined and the church my wife, Nancy, grew up in are both talking about leaving our denomination. It would be easy to say, “well we do see things in scripture differently and so parting ways seems natural and will bring peace.” Homogeneity is easier, but it is also boring and not very instructional. I need to have people who are different than I, see things from a different perspective, to keep my growing edge, to sharpen what I think. The body of Christ is more spirit-dependent when there is disagreement, conversation and even frustration. We are humbled in seeing that our thoughts don’t always align with those we love. (It happens in families too!)
When at my first church I mentioned, serving as education pastor, we had a forum on abortion. There was a vast spectrum of views. At the conclusion I summed things up by saying that we are all seeking to be faithful to Jesus’ call and though we may differ, we are one in faith and hope, in one Lord. I was pulled aside after by an extremist on the panel who confronted me about including those “others” as people of faith. I was plainly told that those others were not Christians. The demonization of others prevents us from viewing others as God’s beloved, filled with the same spirit, all following Jesus. I appreciated that person’s perspective, I learned about intolerance and the agenda some folks have, and I continue to care for that person as a child of God.
The divisions within denominational as well as non-denominational churches seem to be too wide to overcome, as wide as the political divisions of our nation. There is tremendous demonization, laziness about talking together and accepting each other as loving and loved human beings. In the church, we believe that God is Lord of each conscience and to disrespect anyone’s opinion limits, if not denies the working of God’s spirit through that person.
The General Assembly of our denomination starts next week in Pittsburgh. There are some issues that require listening to the other and together discerning, though no doubt imperfectly, but hopefully trusting in a God that carries us to the next part of our journey together. Here are some of those issues.
The first one is about same-sex marriage. As a congregation, it would be helpful and healthy for us to have a conversation now about this, no matter the denominational outcome. A group is gathering to talk about this, from a scriptural perspective, and how it engages our numerous faith perspectives. So if you’d like to join the discussion, please contact me.
Please pray that our General Assembly will faithfully discern God’s desire for us and for all of God’s creation.